Open water swimming entered a new phase last year, with Swim Ireland aiming to qualify Irish swimmers for the long-distance 5k races at future Olympic Games.
To this end, Irish swimmers competed in the Great East Swim in England. Chris Bryan and Rachel Lee were selected for the trip after winning the long distance race at Lough Sheelin. Travelling further afield was Colleen Mallon, who took on the world's top professional swimmers in the Dubai FINA event.
In a notable year for Irish distance swimming, an Irish relay of 685.5km over a period of 232 hours 52 minutes and 30 seconds in Camlough has been nominated as one of the world's top open water swims of last year. To cast your vote, go to www.thewaterisopen.com.
Irish swimmers travelled the globe to participate in some of the world's great swims. Jennifer Hurley and John Conroy completed the 20k Rottnest Race in Perth, Australia, last February, while 21 swimmers took part on the European Master Championships for open water, with Jane Jolly and Deirdre Kearney both finishing fifth in their age groups.
Liz Buckley, Sylvain Estadieu, Eddie Irwin, Liam Maher and George Meehan completed solo swims in the 26.4km Lake Zurich race in Switzerland, where two relay teams were also successful.
In the English Channel, still the biggest challenge in sea swimming, a record 10 Irish swimmers made the 21-mile crossing, with many records tumbling. Lisa Cummins was the first Irish swimmer to complete a double crossing. Owen O'Keefe, aged 16, not only was the youngest Irish swimmer to make the trip but his time of 10 hrs 19 mins was the fastest ever by a swimmer from the Republic. Juliann Galloway's sensational time of nine hours 51 mins was the fastest by an Irish-based woman. In addition, five relay teams were successful.
Locally, open water races attract hundreds of enthusiastic amateurs, especially in Leinster, where the Liffey Swim and the Harbour Swim are fabled events on the Irish sports calendar. In Cork, the revived Lee Swim has spearheaded a re-birth of the sport in Munster. Galway and Limerick also have their own open-water races, with Waterford and Belfast likely to follow. Full details are on the Swim Ireland website.